MMObility: How RuneScape's Evolution of Combat changed my game

RuneScape screenshot

RuneScape has long been a favorite of mine, but I have to admit to being more of an explorer than anything. Combat was always sort of sluggish and tedious. It just wasn't very exciting. I see so many comments from players who AFK, watch television, or play a second game while simultaneously grinding in RuneScape. Luckily RuneScape is a living, breathing, open MMO that comes from the olden times of MMOs but still adds on new bits of design and updated systems. There aren't many other MMOs that are updated as often as RuneScape, and hardly any of them provides as much to do.

Along comes The Evolution of Combat. Jagex has called it the biggest thing to happen to RuneScape, probably ever, and after playing with it for a few day, I tend to agree. What does it change, though, and why do I enjoy it so much? Let me tell you.

RuneScape screenshot

The most obvious change in The Evolution of Combat is how a player interacts with the game. Before the changes, a player would find an enemy, click on it, and watch as the battle worked itself out. There'd be an occasional special button press, but overall, combat for me was always very boring and not dynamic in any way.

The best way to describe the issue is to paraphrase what Jagex has said about the new system. Essentially, the developers want players to be more concerned with choosing the right skills at the right time, firing off combos, and keeping an eye out for enemy weaknesses. Before the patch, players had to be more concerned with navigating the UI. I remember battles during which it was easier to just kill slightly easier mobs because it was too tedious to have to click around to fight difficult mobs efficiently. The honest truth is that I didn't care enough about destroying mobs to work through my boredom with the old UI. I normally ended up completing the quest and going off to explore or to do something much more fun.

The key feature in this combat change is the new hotbar. It might sound funny for non-RuneScape players to hear that the game's new hotbar -- a staple in other MMOs -- is one of the most exciting features of the new patch. This new hotbar is not just a place to link abilities; it can actually hold pretty much anything. You can place a weapon in it and switch between weapons, you might put a potion in it for quick use during battle, or you can use the hotbar to help you work quickly through skill grinds and crafting. The best way to describe it is as a shortcut bar for almost anything, not just abilities and spells.

Combat now flows because of this hotbar. I actually pay attention to what I am doing, even when I am fighting something that would normally provide next to no challenge. Players now build up adrenaline as they fight, and this adrenaline provides fuel for more powerful attacks. I might attack a monster using some basic attacks, and at 50% adrenaline, I will hit the mob with a special attack and then later finish him off with a very powerful and wonderfully animated finishing move that requires a full adrenaline bar. I like the fact that adrenaline is the same for every type of ability, be it magic, melee, or ranged.

RuneScape screenshot

It's possible that the combat seems so dramatically different because it is new. It's very possible that my lack of combat experience in RuneScape has made these combat changes even more spectacular, but all I know is that I care about combat now. My character flows more, and the animations have been reworked, along with all of the weapons, to make for a much more satisfying experience.

The hotbar also gives me the ability to try out different abilities during a fight, sometimes resulting in awesome effects. Thanks to the new dual-wielding ability, I can have a sword in one hand and a crossbow in the other and then shoot a magical spell at my enemy. Poking around the interface to have access to all of these abilities was an exercise in frustration before, but now it feels chaotic -- the good kind of chaotic. I am now taking down creatures that I didn't think I could before mainly because I have speedier access to my abilities, plus the system to identify a creature's weaknesses is easier than ever. If I need to, I can target a creature and the game will tell me what it's weak against. I equip the appropriate weapon and go a-slaughtering.

The new animations are really over the top as well. Finishing and combo moves can be huge and well worth saving adrenaline for. I tend to try a little bit of everything unless I am being overwhelmed and have found that I would rather use a mixed bag of effects instead of searching for the most efficient method of destroying something. I like to play with fire, I guess, while other players simply want to burn down the mob as quickly as possible. There are even new damage "splats" that better show critical hits. Honestly, I'm not one to worry about such things. If I am dying, I run away. If I am killing something, I just keep attacking until it's dead. For those players who worry about perfecting the art of DPS, though, the new on-screen information will be very helpful.

RuneScape hotbar screenshot

I'm leaving quite a bit out of the new combat update, but you can also watch the embedded video for some more explanations. For me, this new update really has changed everything. It's made combat something worth doing. As I mentioned before, RuneScape was less about combat and more about exploring, questing, crafting, making money, and generally existing within a very real virtual world. Now, however, I find that I am actually pursuing tougher and tougher enemies, checking on the weaknesses that will help me bring them down, and attacking them until nothing is left but a few bones on the ground.

Yes, this update has changed RuneScape forever.

Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.